Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Beginning 628

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, watching the bartender make his rounds. The bartender passed him, ignoring him. No more whisky for me, I guess, Steve thought blandly.

Steve felt a shift as someone sat down beside him.

“Oh, hello Dr. Feynman,” he said.

“Hi, Steve,” said a sad voice. “How's it going?”

“Oh, you know. Seeking new possibilities, checking out every available opportunity,” Steve answered. Then he began to cry.

“Please don't,” said Dr. Feynman. His voice was gentle. “I'm trying to work it out for you.”

“Even if you do, I'll have to start all over again next Fall.” Steve shook his head.

“Better that than this.” Steve could hear the note of disgust in Feynman's voice. The bartender walked over and Dr. Feynman ordered a beer.

“Anyone find them yet?” Steve asked.

"Not yet."

Steve shook his head and wiped away more tears.

"Hey, but this is a small campus," Feynman told him. "How far can a couple of genetically mutated, disease-carrying hens get?"

"Uh oh," the bartender said, handing Feynman his beer. He turned toward the bar and shouted, "Lori-Ann! Check the till, would you? How many people had the chicken special?"


Opening: Stacy.....Continuation: Anon.

16 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


Dr. Feynman shook his head. Wherever he'd lost them, in a university this size, finding one man's testicles wasn't going to be easy.

--anon.


"Find what?" the barkeep asked.

"My testicles. Those little green aliens with the big heads turned them into some sort of pets. They had my testicles walking around on a leash like a puppy dog." Steve wiped his face with a napkin and blew his nose.

I'm expecting them to come in the door someday and say 'Hi Steverino, remember the good times we use to have?'"

--Dave F.


Feynman coughed, and his answer held a note of apology. "Yes. Both of them."

"Oh dear God," Steve wept. "Where?"

"In the biology department, pickled in formaldehyde." Feynman's hand fell on Steve's shoulder. "I know it's hard. But trust me, this is no life for a man who's kept his balls."

--Batgirl


It was Dr. Feynman's turn to shake his head. "Sorry, Steve. I can assure you, my assistant and I have looked everywhere we can think of, as I'm sure have you. But you've got to admit, in a university this size, you could have lost them anywhere." He took a gulp of his beer and stared at the TV set behind the counter. "Of course, you could just try growing a pair."

--anon.


“We’re still checking the Carribean, but it’s looking more and more like they went further south, maybe all the way to Chile or Paraguay.” The doctor’s beer arrived. He hunched over it. “You still plan to head down come cold weather?”

“Not as far south as they went,” Steve replied. He ruffled his tailfeathers resignedly. “Some birds just take migration too seriously.”

--Rachel


"Well, that's not a question I can answer, quantum mechanically speaking." Dr. Feynman glanced from Steve's drink to his face, watching the tears rolling from his eyes. "We all know that subatomic particles are hell to track once they are loose. Are you sure you don't remember what you did with them"

Steve shook his head sadly. "Surely you're joking, Dr. Feynman. If I knew how they got out of the uranium samples, would I be drowning my sorrows here?"

"Don't take it so hard, Steve. I've almost got it solved. Just a few new mathematical techniques, and I'm sure I'll be able to get them to reconsider your case."

"Are you as sure as a proton, Dr. Feynman?"

Dr Feynman managed a chuckle. "Yes, Steve, I'm positive."

--D. Lemma


Feynman shook his head. Some times the new research assistants took time to figure out their first project, but they got smart eventually. Not Steve, though -- this had been going on for almost a year.

"Listen," Feynman said. "Why don't you go ask the barman if he has one? They sometimes use them in the cellar."

Steve shrugged, rubbed his eyes, and approached the counter.

"Yes? What'll it be?"

"Doctor Feynman said you might be able to help me out. I'm in his chemistry program. I need a long stand."

"Hmm," the barman replied. "Wait here..."

--anon.


"Steve, you have to give them time. My parents ran away too when I was an undergrad. Try not to take it personally. I'm sure they didn't realise you were conducting hypnotic therapy experiments on them and had no wish to ruin your work."

Dr. Feynman ordered Steve a cup of coffee from the barman and then leaned in close. "Now, the police came by the lab again this morning with just another quick question. Does your father still do that weird pecking thing? Cause if he does, it should make him easier to spot..."

--Mother (Re)produces


"No. And even if they did, you couldn't use them. You know you'll have to do all new work next semester to pass this project grade. It's the best I can hope to do for you."

Steve slammed his fist on the counter and slurred, "But where am I ever going to find another woman with the r59 gene willing to donate her eggs in the name of science?"

Feynman sighed, closed his eyes for a moment, and thanked the bartender as his beer arrived. He took a long sip, looking intently at Steve over the rim of the glass.

"My boy, I've resisted telling you this before because you were taking all of this hard enough as it is. But maybe cloning FFF-size breasts from a massively-busted porn star's eggs in the school lab wasn't the best project idea to begin with."

"But they were beautiful!"

"And that's exactly why they were stolen, my boy. You knew the science fair was on the same weekend as the Homecoming game. When those drunk, sweaty, lust-filled athletes staggered into the exhibition hall...well, my boy, your massive, sculpted, jiggly little creations never stood a chance."

Steve slumped down in his seat, defeat showing clearly on his features, and shouted to the bartender for one more shot. This time, he got what he wanted.

--Geoff


"No," said Feynman, studying his glass.

"Where'd you--"

"Bury them?" Feynman took a sip.

Steve nodded.

"At the bottom of Evil Editor's slush pile."

Steve relaxed. No one would ever find them there.

--Khazar-khum


"No," said Feynman's fourth voice, the squeaky one. "So you and I are all that's left of Missy's Invisible Friends. Put on your fairy wings and man up."

--Batgirl

Evil Editor said...

As one of Batgirl's continuations points out, Feynman's voice is accompanied by adjectives too much: said a sad voice; His voice was gentle; note of disgust in Feynman's voice. If you can convey his feelings through means other than his voice occasionally...


With only two people speaking we don't need a dialogue tag every time. Even if you're worried we'll think it's the bartender speaking, if the speech is an obvious response to what another character just said, like "How's it going?" we don't need "Steve answered." "Steve began to cry" works fine. Instead of "said Dr. Feymnan. His voice was gentle," he could just put his hand on Steve's shoulder.

benwah said...

Surely you're joking, Dr. Feynman.

As EE points out, less is more. The dialogue or the actions work without descriptive tags.

The first line of dialogue caused me a momentary pause...is Steve Dr. Feynman? Upon reading on, obviously not, but that brief confusion isn't helping.

Anonymous said...

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, watching the bartender make his rounds. ( I like the first sentence but...)

The bartender passed him, ignoring him. (There's two things going on here. One, it repetitive, and I don't mean just bartender. Since the bartender is making his rounds, readers can conclude he's passed our MC. Problem two stems from the bartender ignoring our MC. Has the MC done something to draw the bartenders attention? Either way, can you show us the scene instead of telling us about it?)

No more whisky for me, I guess, Steve thought blandly. (This is both too mild and too cognitive for someone "stupid" with alcohol.)

Steve felt a shift (what shifted? Was it is brain, was it the air, was it the bench, bar, his stomach, intuition? Try to be specific) as (You can use as here, I'd go with when.)someone sat down beside him.

“Oh, hello Dr. Feynman,” he said. (Who's he? The bartender, the MC, or the person who just sat down?)

“Hi, Steve,” said a sad voice. (Who's the sad voice?) “How's it going?”

“Oh, you know. Seeking new possibilities, checking out every available opportunity,” Steve answered. Then he began to cry. (Which one is Steve?)

“Please don't,” said Dr. Feynman. His voice was gentle. (If you had defined for us at the begging of the dialogue which one is which, I'd know, but right now, even though we have names, it's a bunch of talking heads. Also if one of Steve or Dr. Freynman is the MC, he/she is really coherent for being "stupid with alcohol") “I'm trying to work it out for you.”

“Even if you do, I'll have to start all over again next Fall.” Steve shook his head.

“Better that than this.” Steve could hear the note of disgust in Feynman's voice. The bartender walked over and Dr. Feynman ordered a beer.

“Anyone find them yet?” Steve asked.

Your first sentence is really strong, and the rest of the writing isn't bad. It's just vague. We don't know who's who or enough information for "Anyone find ..." to carry impact.

Dave F. said...

There was a story floating around college when I attended. It was that an excellent graduate student was days away from submitting his doctoral thesis when a competing student submitted a thesis so close to his topic that it knocked him out of the doctorate. It seems there was some poor communication between advisers and professors and nothing could be done so the unfortunate grad student had to repeat his entire doctorate.

Now the grad student didn't just go drinking and crying, he supposedly wrote "Hugh's Dirty Ditties" a vast and amazing collection of obscenity-laden drinking songs with questionable lyrics. So in Hugh's memory, college men all over would crowd into the girls bathroom and sing dirty ditties.

Well, much of this is just a good story. Not to mention an excuse for (at that time) stealing mimeo supplies and wasting time while drinking booze.

So to the point: My story is kinda what this opening feels like. As a reader I'm trying to figure out what "loss" caused Steve to cry in his beer. At the same time, I'm giggling over why a college grad student in crying in a bar (not very manly) about something lost. What could be that serious?
Loss of body parts.
Loss of family members.

That's what will hook the reader. Most men sitting in a bar drinking themselves into alcoholic oblivion are STUPID. That's not exciting. How many active brain cells does it take to plant your buttocks on a bar stool -- two, maybe three? Honest, not many more brain cells even if the TV is on and they are text messaging lies to get a date on next week. I know, I've been around enough boozed up jackasses in my life. They are a brainless lot.

Now that being said, the name FEYNMAN is too well known not to cause you trouble. Unless this is the real Dr Feynman. How about opening with something like
The bartender ignored Steve after his fifth beer. or
Steve watched the bartender through a semicircle of empties. Even alcohol didn't take away the sting of losing his thesis papers when his car was stolen." or
Playing tic-tac-toe with pony bottles and shot glasses couldn't remove the pain of losing his lover to the quarterback.

_*Rachel*_ said...

A lot of this (ie, a sad voice) tells instead of showing. I agree that the pronouns could use some work in paragraphs 2-3.

About the tone of this.... Your word choice and sentence structure feels like the story's meant for youth, maybe middle school or a bit younger. Books for that age group don't tend to contain any miserable drunks at the local bar. Who's your audience?

benwah said...

Dave, speaking from years of personal experience, I can safely say one functioning brain cell is more than sufficient to hoist oneself onto a bar stool.

stacy said...

Thanks for the comments.

Steve isn't Dr. Feynman. Steve didn't lose his thesis paper or his dissertation - or his balls. (All of the continuations made me laugh . . . yes, I have the humor of a 13-year-old boy).

This sounds stupid in an explanation, but Steve set loose a couple of genetically-engineered rats on the city by accident. This is a flash-fiction story (for now), so I think the sentence structure is fine, since I need to keep the word count at 1000 or less. Definitely losing dialogue tags would help that. And maybe I'll reveal what Steve lost a little sooner.

I can fix the confusion by replacing "he" with "Steve" in the dialogue tag.

Thanks again for the comments!

Robin S. said...

Hey freddie,

I like this.

I just took a look again - and I think with a minimum of fuss -you're good to go - just a few sentences away.

What about this (changes are italicized) --

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, watching the bartender make his rounds. The bartender passed him, ignoring him. No more whisky for me, I guess, Steve thought blandly. (I'd take this sentence out. Don't really need.)

Steve felt a shift as someone sat down beside him.

“Hi, Steve,” said a sad voice. (I moved this sentence up and took out the second half of the dialogue.))

“Oh, hello Dr. Feynman,” he(change to 'Steve') said.

“How's it going?”(inserted the second half here)

“Oh, you know. Seeking new possibilities, checking out every available opportunity,” Steve answered. Then(take out 'then'.) He began to cry.

“Please don't,” said Dr. Feynman. His voice was gentle. “I'm trying to work it out for you.”

“Even if you do, I'll have to start all over again next Fall.” Steve shook his head.

“Better that than this.” Steve could hear the note of disgust in Feynman's voice. The bartender walked over and Dr. Feynman ordered a beer.

“Anyone find them yet?” Steve asked.

-------

With these few changes, you've got a clean opening, girl. In my humble opinion, this works very well.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You know, if you want to make it really exciting, change it to:

"How's it going?"

"Oh, you know. They got into the sewer system and we haven't seen them since. And every store in town is out of rat poison," Steve answered.

Humorous! If you've got fancy rats, use them! It might be fun, anyway....

BuffySquirrel said...

First paragraph rejection. "Steve thought blandly" killed it.

stacy said...

Yep, first draft, Buffy. That's been taken out. : )

BuffySquirrel said...

Second drafts are always thick with the ink of murdered words :D.

freddie said...

Okay, here's a revision of the opening. I've got "Dr. X" because I haven't thought of a name as cool as Feynman. Yet.

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, watching the bartender make his rounds. The bartender passed, ignoring him. Again. Steve felt his pockets for the fourth time for cigarettes he didn't have.

Someone sat down beside him.

“Oh, hello Dr. X,” Steve said.

“Hi, Steve. How's it going?”

“Oh, you know. Seeking new possibilities, checking out every available opportunity,” Steve answered. He began to cry.

“Please don't. I'm trying to work it out for you.”

“Even if you do, I'll have to start all over again next fall.” Steve shook his head.

“Better that than this.” The bartender walked over and Dr. X ordered a beer.

“True.”

For a few minutes neither said anything. The bartender brought Dr. X his beer.

“Anyone find them yet?” Steve asked.

Phoenix said...

Hey Freddie: If this is flash, then every word's gotta count -- and not count twice. I think there are still some opportunities here for futher tightening.

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, watching the bartender make his rounds. The bartender passed, ignoring him. Again. Steve felt his pockets for the fourth time for cigarettes he didn't have. Would the bartender be the one making rounds? If it's just a bartender and no waitpersons, don't customers usually go to the bar to order?Someone sat down beside him. Your MC knows the person, so even in close 3rd, you don't need to make it vague that 'someone' sits.“Oh, hello Dr. X,” Steve said. You're using this pleasantry really only to ID the man. If the narrative says who he is, then you don't really need this sentence.“Hi, Steve. How's it going?”

“Oh, you know. Seeking new possibilities, checking out every available opportunity,” Steve answered. He began to cry. We don't need both the dialog tag and the action here. I think I'd prefer "Tears welled in Steve's eyes" or something that indicates to what extent Steve is crying: weeping softly, sobbing, balling, wailing.

“Please don't. I'm trying to work it out for you.” The 'Please don't' could be in response to Steve saying he's checking out opportunities or to his crying - I'm not sure which.

“Even if you do, I'll have to start all over again next fall.” Steve shook his head. Logical progression would be for Steve to shake his head before or while he speaks, not after.“Better that than this.” The bartender walked over and Dr. X ordered a beer. Odd interruption. This just feels like 'business' in the scene.“True.” Having Steve agree after he's just indicated starting over isn't his first option isn't working for me. This exchange doesn't feel like it's progressing the story, but getting bogged down in how a 'real' conversation might go.For a few minutes neither said anything. The bartender brought Dr. X his beer.

“Anyone find them yet?” Steve asked.

Overall, I'm finding this a bit of a slow start. Too vague to hold my interest, especially if I know I'm going into it for less than 1000 words. Not knowing what may/may not be important, I'd revise it to get rid of the excessive tags and avoid redundancy and small, inconsequential actions and dialog:

Steve sat, stupid with alcohol, while the bartender pointedly ignored the finger tapping the empty glass. Defeated, he fumbled in his pocket for the pack of cigarettes he didn't have.

Dr. X slid onto the stool beside him and signaled for a beer. "So, Steve, how's it going?"

"Oh, you know ..." He made a vague gesture and an even vaguer noise right before the tears spilled out.

"Please don't start that. I'm trying to work it out for you before next semester." X handed the bartender a five for his beer.

Steve eyed the glass with abandoned hope. After a time, he asked, "Anyone find them yet?"

freddie said...

Good suggestions, Phoenix. I'll work on it.